timing wants

using timing and planning to control spending.

I've been reading a little bit about the difference between being frugal and being a tight-wad. Sum it up to say that tight-wads save money to have money; frugal folks save money to be able to put it toward their carefully-considered priorities. Paying off a house, being able to buy a car without financing, saving up for travel, clothes-shopping at Ross and Target to be able to visit fancy restaurants. THAT is frugal.

My husband and I haven't really set any financial goals, other than "no credit card debt" and "save $2000 to get us through the winter heating oil bills." We can't really have much of a real savings plan because, after a meager retirement investment and putting aside some toward the winter pillow, and a little bit of play money, we pretty much break even every month. So we can either scrape by and build up meager savings, or we can have the occasional dinner with friends, keep our blockbuster subscription, and maybe get a book or two each month.

Sometimes, when I have to pull the belt tight, I have trouble walking the line between 'want' and 'need.' My thumb, for example, has felt like it's perpetually jammed for a couple of years now. Before I got married, I could afford to see a chiropractor about once a month for a spinal adjustment, and he would take care of the thumb for me too. Now, a year after taking on a grad student to feed and house, there are days when I can't even really use my right hand without experiencing low-to-moderate pain. Do I NEED a chiropractor? No, my thumb won't fall off, and it doesn't interfere with daily life enough to make it a priority. But I sure could go for an extra $40 a month to keep the problem at bay. And some days, I'm hard-pressed NOT to pick up the phone and make an appointment.

Another example. For a graduation gift, my mom got me a great sewing machine. Problem was, I'm a hands-on learner but at that time I couldn't afford lessons. I slugged away trying to figure out the machine, but I never got it right...in fact, I was getting worse. Not too long after that, I had a few 'life-altering experiences' that prevented me from getting back to sewing. This past weekend, after a couple of months of really feeling the itch to try again, I packed up the machine and went to a friend's house. She spent the better part of 3 hours showing me the ropes, and she sent me home with all kinds of samples to try out.

Excellent! A new hobby! And one that will even help me save money, no less! All I need is a cutting mat, a couple of rotary cutters..... and about $70 of cash to get these goodies and all the beginner patterns and what-not I could need. But I don't have $70. I don't even have $20 for a second-hand mat right now, thanks to an expensive vet visit a few weeks ago. The 40% coupon to Joann.com has been singing its siren song for the past day or so. It's just 20 bucks, right?

Wrong. That $20 spent will come directly out of savings, which is counter to our plan. And given the vet bill, some summer travel, and a couple of work expenses that haven't been reimbursed yet (MY fault, not theirs) we are really strapped right now. And yet I came so close to making the buy. Seriously...cursor hovering over 'submit,' wondering how to explain it to Brian...

I couldn't quite bring myself to place the order, though. I felt a hesitation, and I jumped on it. I started thinking about where I would put the cutting mat. The answer was, nowhere. I don't have any clear table space right now, and I don't know when I might get to clearing space. This would mean that my 'so important' cutting mat would end up sitting in a corner somewhere, waiting to be used, and making me feel guilty about the current state of my house. Yeah right...as if I need MORE reasons to beat myself up.

So I closed the window. I don't HAVE to have this right now - there are other projects that I already have materials for, that won't require a cutting mat just yet. I can use those to practice and really determine how seriously I want to pursue sewing. I will poke around at nearby yard sales and estate sales to look for bounty. And then, I will begin to make a place for a permanent sewing station in the house, at which point I can completely justify spending the $20 or even $40, for a cutting mat (if I haven't already found a decent used one). I might even be more likely to HAVE the money, at that point, too, as I'd be aware of my expected finishing point and could start setting aside bits and pieces in preparation.

THAT is what it means to be frugal.

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